WordPress

WordPress + WooCommerce: What does it mean?!

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If you run a WordPress site, and you use it to sell stuff, there is a pretty good chance you’ve opted for WooCommerce as your e-commerce solution. With over 7.5 million downloads, 600,000 using the paid version, you aren’t the only one who made the same match. According to WooThemes (the parent company of WooCommerce), WooCommerce powers over 24% of all online retail sites. A top 10 WordPress plugin, it only made sense for Automattic (the owners of WordPress) to scoop it, and the whole WooThemes team, up. Automattic paid more for WooCommerce than any other acquisition they’ve previously been a part of, for a reported $30 Million. They feel e-commerce is a profitable market, and have proved they are willing to put their money where their mouth is. While this won’t mean much for WordPress.com users, the rest of us who use WordPress.org will likely see plenty of changes in the near future. With the acquisition due to be complete in the next month, there has been a lot of speculation about what’s to come.

For those unfamiliar with WooCommerce, here is a brief explanation: it turns your WP site into an online store. You can add, adjust prices, organize, and edit products as needed without much hassle. It’s also great from a payment standpoint, coming fresh out of the box PayPal ready and offering extensions to increase it’s payment method capabilities. WooThemes has also stuffed it with other goodies including inventory management, coupon codes, shipping management, analytics, and other facets necessary for a user to easily run a store. Woo has also included a variety of extensions and themes to make customizing your shop easy.

So what does the Automattic acquisition mean for users in the future? The WordPress + WooCommerce combination should lead for more open source development, flexibility, and integration. A major hope is that this union will bring stability to the connection between WordPress and e-commerce, carrying over into the rest of the plugin offerings as well. The more the two can be integrated, the better they will be as a platform for online sales and growth. As a small online company grows, the hope is they can just expand their sites capabilities rather then look to custom coding to cater to their growing demand. There has also been a lot of user speculation (read: hope) that this means lowered prices for extensions, bundles, and plans. That or a beefed up free version offering things like the shipping extension and styling elements, both of which are currently reserved for pricier plugins.

Aside from the anticipated improvements, WooThemes has promised to continue business as usual for their themes and plugins (including WooCommerce.) The biggest difference  is they will now have the support and access to Automattic’s resources, including their manpower and technology. Feel free to watch Matt’s announcement video below.

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Google Makes Mobile Site Mandatory

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Well it’s now official. If you don’t have a website that is mobile friendly you’ll be harder to find on Google.

After months of proclaiming the importance of having a mobile website, Google has finally implemented their changes that make a mobile site mandatory as part of a company’s SEO strategy. Up until last week, Google operated on the honor system allowing companies to just say their site was mobile friendly, but no more. Now Google is the sole arbiter of this issue and no longer will just take a company’s word for it.

So what’s the impact?

Effective last week searches from a smartphone will include the term—mobile friendly—in the results. By including this tag Google is betting that companies will work to make sure their site is verified as mobile friendly: that’s the carrot. There is also a stick, as the new algorithm rolls out over the next several weeks, sites that are not defined as mobile friendly will be dropped down in the search engine results list. While this is not stated specifically it is pretty much guaranteed it will happen.

However there is a silver lining here. The days of having to have a separate website done in mobile format are behind us. Many content management systems, like WordPress offer a 2-for-1 capability. Any site constructed with these tools should be set up to be “responsive.” This means that you can have one website which automatically reformats for the device being used to view it, meaning there is no longer a need to have separate desktop and mobile websites.

If you’d like to know how your site ranks use this link and enter your domain name.

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

If you need other reasons to value a mobile website consider the following:

  • Mobile traffic leads the Internet
  • Companies with responsive design websites reduce their bounce rate by 11% on average
  • 66% of all email is opened on a mobile device, think what it means for a client to open an email on their smartphone and not be able to read your website when they click there.
  • In a 2013 survey Google reported that 90% of executives used their mobile devices for research and 34% said they abandoned sites that were not responsive
Need a new website?

Need a new website? Terms to know…

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With so many voices in the web building world, it gets tricky to sort through it and find the solution that works best for you. Here are some terms that can help sift through the web talk and help you make a better and more informed decision.

CMS: Content Management Systems: Long gone are the days of building webpages and sites by hand coding. With the size and scale of the sites on the web now, trying to manually manage them has turned from tricky to near impossible.

Introducing Content Management Systems. What is it? A platform that provides the structure, organization and deployment of content. Software is installed on the server, that allows a user to login to an admin panel where they can access, edit, and publish content without knowing any code. The setup and customization is typically much less work than traditional websites, and with a skilled developer you can have a fast, secure, and unique site on a time table that is a fraction of what they were 5 years ago. There are a variety of CMS available, with the most popular being WordPress.

WordPress: I know you’ve heard the term. It’s been floating around for almost 10 years now. My first experience with WordPress was in 2007 when I created my first photography blog. Then, I chose it simply because it was free and it promised a simple and quick installation. I’ve been able to watch it grow into the number one CMS powering 23% of the internet.

WordPress is my choice for CMS for a variety of reasons, the first being its community. As open source software, anyone and everyone is welcome to develop and create for WordPress. This establishes a network of well… help. Anytime I have needed help or had questions someone within the WordPress community has usually seen the same issue or wanted to try the same thing.

Plugins are extensions for the basic WordPress platform. There are plenty of free options, but if you’ve got a budget you can use premium plugins to quickly turn your site into whatever you would like. E-commerce site, blog, portfolio, you name it.

WordPress also anticipates and embraces new technology. They were leaps and bounds ahead of other platforms in developing sites that were mobile friendly. That is just one example. They continue to be ahead of the curve in adopting what users want on a front and back end.

Framework: Not interested in a CMS? There are plenty of other options. The next most used option is a Framework. People often compare WordPress and Drupal. Having a limited amount of time working within Drupal, it felt less like a CMS and more like a framework. You could build a CMS with Drupal but it requires more time, more humans, and more money. It is also open source, and there’s a very loyal community, but the learning curve is steep, and building and maintaining a framework site will require a team of developers. There are lots of arguments out there on why one is better than other, but I’ve yet to run into a situation where Drupal did something WordPress couldn’t. But the White House does use it, so there’s that.

E-commerce: Like shopping online? Me too… E-commerce simply allows you to sell online. Just a few years ago this required the use of highly skilled developers. Things have gotten easier. WordPress has plugins like WooCommerce to make this possible. And there are other sites that will make e-commerce very simple for you; but beware because they are often interested in taking a significant portion of your profit.

Free software: There are dozens of free options out there for websites. Some of the most popular being wix and weebly. As a developer I did not have any fun working with these platforms. While I am sure there is a demographic that benefits from these services, I am yet to see who they are. If you are a business, or anyone seeking to establish an online presence, I have found these options tend to be just as much work, with significantly less payoff.

Still not sure what’s right for you? Drop us a line in the comments and we can help steer you in the right direction.

Tips and Tools for Increasing Your WordPress Skills

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WordPress: You’ve got the basics but where to next? While learning as you go can get you to your destination, it wouldn’t hurt to have the tools and resources help make the process easier. A simple search of “Wordpress Help,” or something of the like, could end up leading you on a wild goose chase for the  guidance you were looking for. One easy way to expedite this is to know what you’re searching for, the second is to know where to look.

Having a solid foundation is the key to improvement. Knowing the basics of WordPress will allow you to turn your ideas into reality. Here are some ways to improve your WordPress skills:

WP101  is a site that provides you with step-by-step video tutorials to guide you through the beginning stages of WordPress. They also have a Q&A Forum for you to find the answers to the questions they may have not covered.

WPBeginner is a great website which includes tutorials as well as a Beginners Guide and other resources specifically for new WordPress users.

Your foundation is set, but you still have questions when it comes to development. These sites can help you on your way:

WPArena goes talks through some of the more in-depth subjects regarding WordPress. Their blog’s content includes how-to’s, plug-ins and theme suggestions.

You have your basic WordPress set up, but now you want to learn how to make it more customized. That’s where WPModder’s  tutorials can help.

At this point you have some references and have developed your knowledge to where you are comfortable tackling your own site. Now you want to keep up to date on news, advancements and general conversations regarding WordPress. Or maybe you want to see examples of other peoples work for inspiration. Either way here are some great sites to keep you in-the-know:

Manage WP

WPMudev

WPCandy

Tips and Tricks HQ

Smashing Magazine

Pingable

Another great way to keep up with news and trends of WordPress is through Twitter. If you want to fill your feed with posts and updates related to WordPress, here are a few to get you started:

@TheTorqueMag: The self proclaimed Wordpess news core.

@wplift: Dedicated solely to WordPress, WPLift covers everything from tips, to plug-in reviews.

@DavidWells: David is a WordPress designer and developer, as well as the founder of Inbound Now.

Learning WordPress, or developing your skills, is not a lonely journey. There are endless sites and sources to help you on your way. Finding sites that answer the questions you have, or the content you desire, will help WordPress go from a foreign or overwhelming site-development tool to a place you can be creative and deliver your content in the way you desire.

Photo credit: Nicholas Wang

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Excellent New Marketing Tool for WordPress

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Everyone has heard about marketing automation; the holy grail of business software solutions; at least this week. The solutions abound, HubSpot, ActOn, Infusionsoft, Marketo, and so on. They promise the moon, and for those with the human and financial capital to use them effectively, they actually deliver outstanding results. But what about the little guy, what about the small business that wants some of the same capabilities but has a staff of five and no money to spend. What do they do?

Well, using our superpower of prognostication we think we may have found one; LeadIn. We’ve been trying it out for the last few weeks and really like what we’ve seen so far. Clearly, it’s a work in progress, but it already is adding value to our organization.

In short, the current software provides capabilities to track individuals who visit a website and fill out any associated form, be it a request for information, a download of some sort, or joining a newsletter. LeadIn adds a tracking cookie to the visitors’ browser and automatically ads them to the LeadIn contacts section it will create in your WordPress site. In that sense, it is as powerful as the other options that cost thousands of dollars per month.

The folks at LeadIn are very much on the right track and have designs for bringing significant capabilities to the WordPress world.

Now the reason for this blatant plug…something we don’t do often…they need testers. Right now they are seeking to get as many people as they can accommodate to install the beta PlugIn and try it out. If this holds any interest for you, we hope you will check them out and we can all watch together as they move forward.

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Building a Successful eCommerce Site – Part 2

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In part one of building a successful eCommerce site, we talked about how the location of a brick and mortar store is the equivalent of the search engine results for an eCommerce site. The gist of what we were talking about is putting the business in the best position for high volumes of traffic. However, high volumes of traffic to your business, whether it be foot traffic or Internet visitors, isn’t going to do any good if the business can’t convert the sale. So let’s look at another consideration that applies to both brick and mortar stores and eCommerce sites; Design.

Brick and Mortar Interior Design = eCommerce Site Design

Quality design makes people feel at ease, it lets them know you are serious about what you do, and it adequately reflects your brand. Good design not only reflects well on your brand, it also influences how people buy. In a brick and mortar store, you have the advantage of employees to communicate the brand’s message to potential buyers, but eCommerce sites often don’t have the luxury of face to face communication. This is where design becomes even more important. Consider these things when you start to think about your site design:

Vet Your Designer

Do your research here. Look at their past work. Either ask them for references or look up contact info for someone they worked for and just ask them about it. Actually, do that! You might find that they were slow to work with but they communicated every step of the way, which is much better than someone who doesn’t communicate at all and gives you a finished product that vaguely resembles what you want.

Ask Them To Tell You a Story

So you found someone who designs some pretty slick stuff, great! But how are they at telling stories? If they are simply asking you what design choices you want and not at all about what makes your business unique and different, walk away. Just like that. Find someone else. There are hordes of people out there that have the technical skills to make a website work and look good, but most don’t possess the traits required to tell your brand story AND make it look good, which is what sets apart a successful eCommerce site and a mediocre one.

Set Yourself Up For Flexibility

We have written about why we love WordPress here before, but I can’t stress to you enough the importance to have your site built on a system that you can manage yourself. Most designers, and frankly people in general, tend not to be the best communicators, especially when you need something done urgently. The power to make changes yourself will be priceless over the life of your business.

One should place just as much importance on site design just as one places importance on the interior design, product placement, and customer flow of a brick and mortar store. In the end, good design will last the life of the business and pay for itself ten times over. Take your time and find someone who can help tell your story with finesse and efficiency.

Stay tuned for part 3 of Building a Successful eCommerce Site.

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Anatomy of An Effective Blog Post

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The why and how of an effective blog post – for beginners

It’s no secret that a great blog keeps your site fresh and can provide a nice search engine bump. Not only that, it can also act as a strong voice for your brand and a means by which you establish a thought leadership position in your industry. More and more companies are taking on the task of writing content and maintaining a blog. We see excited and reluctant writers jump into the blogging pool every day.

For those of you out there new to blogging game here are some tips for making sure your blog posts are effective and the time spent is good for you and your readers.

Be clear about why you’re blogging

First things first; if you’re starting a blog so you can talk about how awesome you are don’t waste your time because readers won’t waste their time reading your content. That is unless you’re a celebrity and strangers are just dying to know how cool your life is.

A business blog is an opportunity to share insights, knowledge, a peek behind the curtain and overall be a productive member of internet society. read more

Why WordPress is the Best Option for Websites

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Let’s take a minute and talk about WordPress.

From a general standpoint WordPress is a Content Management System; one of many available. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. So why WordPress? Simple, it’s easy to use, there is a huge community of people surrounding it and anyone coming out of college since 2005 will be pretty comfortable working with the tools.

Content management systems are a great thing. If your site is based on one, no matter which one, you’re ahead in the Internet game. If you’re not using a content management system you should be and that’s a longer discussion. read more

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